Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Mini-exodus at Man City in January?

Santa Cruz and Tevez: Leaving Eastlands?
Man City's "super-sized" squad may be up for some trimming in January. Paraguayan striker, Roque Santa Cruz has announced his intentions of leaving City in January to a club that will field him in the first 11 and rumours are rife Carlos Tevez and Emanuel Adebayor maybe on their way out soon as well.

So far, it would appear the rumour about Tevez leaving is just that - a rumour. But the Argentine international has repeatedly spoken about his intentions to leave England to be with his family - ala Javier Mascherano. It would be a serious blow if Tevez were to leave in January or even next summer for that matter. After a forgetful season last year, Tevez seems to back to his lethal best and Mancini's decision to give the striker the captain's armband seems to have paid dividends.

As for Emanuel Adebayor, it's almost certain the Togolese striker will leave the first chance an offer comes his way. Playing second fiddle to Tevez in the pecking order in Mancini's one-striker formation has left the former Arsenal striker increasingly frustrated with life at the Eastlands. Which is a pity because Adebayor is certainly one of the best forwards in the Premier League. And should Adebayor move to another Premier League club and return to his free-scoring days, Mancini's job be on the line.

If it isn't already, that is.

Losing Santa Cruz itself is quite a blow although I don't suspect many in City would miss him - Paraguayan striker's long-term injury woes kept his appearances for the club rather limited ever since his move from Blackburn Rovers. But Santa Cruz too was regarded as one of the best strikers in the league and his departure may send warning signals to City's owners who paid very good money for Santa Cruz' services, not to mention Adebayor's'.

Still, when money's no object, I guess even Santa Cruz and Adebayor can join the list of expendables at the club.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The wacky world of Wayne Rooney

By now, almost everyone is aware of Wayne Rooney's famous u-turn this week when he decided to pledge his future to Man Utd 24 hours after declaring he was leaving the Devils due to fears the club's future was looking bleak. Some irony.

Rooney and Fergie: Best Friend$ again
One wonders what Sir Alex, David Gill and the Glazers managed to tell Rooney to change his mind and remain in United. $omehow, they managed to ease his fears and convince him that despite debts of GBP700 million, no adequate replacements for Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez and an aging squad, his future remained at Old Trafford.

Some reports suggest Rooney decided to stay after being assured by the Glazers that GBP100 million will be available to Sir Alex to acquire new signings. If that's all it took, wouldn't it have been easier to have just given Sir Alex a call instead of announcing he wanted to leave the club? Something certainly doesn't add up with that theory.

And while most Man Utd fans seem to be ecstatic with his decision to stay at the club, they seem to be missing the point that Rooney became the first player under Sir Alex Ferguson's reign to hold the club to ransom. The Sir Alex of old would never have tolerated such disloyalty from any player. I guess desperate times call for desperate measures.

But Rooney's actions have set a dangerous precedence. Now, every prima donna footballer out there is going to hold his club to ransom just to get a raise. What's even more impressive on Rooney's part is that he managed to get the contract he wanted despite being one of the worst performers in a United shirt this season.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Rijkaard for Liverpool?

While Europe's biggest sides await to see Wayne Rooney's next move, another major surprise may be in the offing. BBC Sports reports former-Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard has parted ways with Galatasaray and speculation is rife Liverpool may be the Dutchman's next destination.

Officially, there isn't any real indication at all that Rijkaard has left Galatasaray for Liverpool or that the Reds new owners, New England Sports Ventures (NESV, have given up on Roy Hodgson and are seeking a replacement.

But at the same time, Rijkaard's sudden departure from Galatasary poses several questions. For one, Rijkaard's performance at Galatasaray hardly warranted a sacking. After leading them to third place last season, the Turkish side have been struggling for form this season and are currently in ninth position. If Roy Hodgson can keep his job (for now) with his team languishing in the relegation zone, what's ninth place?

As for John W Henry and co, witnessing Liverpool succumb so easily to Everton last weekend should have surely sent some alarm bells ringing. Even more concerning, perhaps, was Hodgson's cluelesness during the match and his bizzare post-match comments when claimed Liverpool's performance at Goodison was by far the best they've managed under him.

The fact that Hodgson has sent the team to levels no manager has ever done before should be enough for Henry and the rest of NESV to push the panic button. Hogdson has managed just one win out of eight matches and Liverpool weren't all that great in that game against WBA too. In fact, Liverpool's best performance so far this season came in the opening match against Arsenal. But something has gone amiss since then and one can't but wonder if Javier Mascherano's departure has had a much bigger impact on the club than Hodgson would like to admit.

That being said, there's no reason why this Liverpool team should fail so miserably without Mascherano. Perhaps then it has something to do with Hodgson's training methods, player selection and tactics (or the lack of).

But whatever the reason, one thing seems to be clear: Roy Hodgson seems extremely unlikely to turn things around anytime soon and if Liverpool intend to reclaim their place among the Big Four and avoid relegation, they better act fast.

Watch Ferguson's emotional press conference on Wayne Rooney's decision to leave Utd

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Confirmed - Rooney eying Old Trafford exit (Updated with tweets from Rio Ferdinand at the bottom)

Fergie: Rooney wants to leave
A week after rumours first surfaced about Wayne Rooney's apparent desire to leave Man Utd, Sir Alex Ferguson has broken his silence on the matter and confirmed that the England star is indeed looking to exit Old Trafford.

Ferguson, however, has denied that Rooney's decision to leave the club is due to a fallout between the Scotsman and the striker, BBC Sports reports.

"We are as bemused as anyone can be, we can't quite understand why he would want to leave," Ferguson reportedly told a news conference, before adding United is hoping Rooney changes his mind to remain with United.

Not that Fergie would have admitted that yet another high-profile star is set to leave United after a fallout player and manager - David Beckham, Jaap Stam, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Roy Keane and Carlos Tevez are among the many stars who have had their careers at Man Utd ended prematurely after getting on Ferguson's wrong side.

If Ferguson's not at fault, why would Rooney choose to leave? Fame? Greed? He's one of the highest paid players in United and he can't possibly get any more famous than he already is. A new challenge? Perhaps, although it's pretty hard to imagine just what it is Rooney has left to achieve at club level.

And as I predicted, Chelsea are apparently ready to snatch Rooney away from Old Trafford, which isn't surprising considering their lack of a proper strike partner / substitute for Didier Drogba (Nicolas Anelka's getting old, people).

So yes, while Chelsea seriously needs a striker like Rooney in its ranks, it remains to be seen why the England striker intends to leave the club that transformed him from a footballer with potential to one of the best strikers in the world.

Meanwhile, teammate Rio Ferdinand had this to say on twitter:

-wanted 2 sleep but just watching sky sports news.I weren't expecting that,my phones HOT right now.This is for the Boss and wayne to sort out

-The twitfam are going in hard here. A lot of hostility at the moment. I respect the Boss so 4 me to comment right now is not possible tweeps

Monday, October 18, 2010

Is Rooney going to leave Utd for good?

Is Rooney on his way out?
Is Wayne Rooney really on the verge of leaving Man Utd? What began as the typical round-off-the-mill tabloid gossip seems to have evolved into yet another high-profile bust-up in the Old Trafford dressing room. And as usual, the antagonist in this drama is none other than Sir Alex Ferguson himself.

It's no big secret that the English media and Sir Alex don't exactly see eye-to-eye. But the Scotsman's latest self-imposed embargo with the media isn't going to him any favours with countless number of stories being published each day about his deteriorating relationship with Rooney.  

Such is the extent of the rumours that now even the Press Association claims Rooney maybe the next high-profile star to leave United and has refused to sign a contract, leaving the door open for the possibility of a January transfer for the England star.

Can any of this be true? Could Ferguson's wonderboy actually be thinking about turning his back on the club that made him the star he is? If he is, he won't be the first. Many other gifted footballers have left United under similar circumstances. In fact, the list of players who have become casualties of Fergie's wrath could make it a dream team of sorts.

But is there really a rift between Ferguson and Rooney? The media seems to think Rooney's denial of carrying an ankle injury, just weeks after Ferguson had said the opposite, was a case of defiance by the English striker against the Utd manager.

It isn't altogether uncommon for players to claim they are fitter than they really are and for managers to be extra cautious over their star players, especially when they've been the subject of extra-marital accusations in the tabloids.

In fact, Ferguson has always been extremely protective over Rooney and it wouldn't be surprising if Fergie decided benching the England star would be the best thing for him. But Rooney, at 24, falls under the category of footballers who get extremely ticked off when left on the bench, especially when more minutes on the field would help lift him out of the slump he's been ever since the World Cup.

But where would Rooney go? Real Madrid? Barcelona? Almost all of the ex-Man Utd stars who leave the club for greener pastures in Europe have never been able to replicate the success they had with the devils so it would make more sense for Rooney to stay in England. But would he choose to incur the wrath of the Man Utd faithful and move to another English club? At the top of my head, the only club I could see affording Rooney would be Chelsea or, you guessed it, Man City.

I'm sure we'll find out soon enough if there is any truth at all to the "supposed" rift between Ferguson and Rooney although it does have to be pointed out that most of the "rumours" on Rooney that has been published by the media have turned out to be true. And as they say, no star is bigger than Fergie at Man Utd.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And the douchebags of the year are...

And the douchebags of the year award goes to..
If there ever is an award for douchebags of the year in the footballing world, it would certainly have to go to Tom Hicks and George Gillette. Never before have two men who know absolutely nothing of football have been this determined to destroy a football club. Time and again, the duo have defied all logic and rationality to cling on to an asset that should very well be classified as distressed.

And as if being told off by the British High Court wasn't enough, Hicks and Gillette have confirmed they would rather drag the club towards a nine-point deduction than admit defeat. Despite yesterday's ruling in London, Hicks and Gillette have won an injunction against the ruling from, get this, a district court in Hicks' home state of Texas. That's right. A district court. Not only did they defy the court ruling in Britain, they decided to insult it too by getting an injunction from a district court.

And so, the rest of Liverpool's board are heading back to the British High Court to sort this mess out and proceed with the sale of the club to New England Sports Ventures (NESV). Among the things that will be discussed will probably be whether an injunction in America could have an effect on the ruling in Britain. I'm no law expert but I can't for the life of me see how the district court in Texas can stop the sale.

Of course, there will be a hearing for the injunction at the court in Texas but guess what, it would only happen on Oct 25, well after the deadline for Liverpool to repay its debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). So I guess Hicks and Gillette's last roll of the dice is merely a big "screw you" to Liverpool and its legions of fans around the world who hate the American duo.

It is also interesting that this district court in Texas saw it fit to give them the injunction to stop the sale. Hicks and Gillette claimed the rest of Liverpool's board are in cohorts with RBS and that, for some weird reason or other, were determined to sell the club below its market valuation. Oh, wait, I forget. There is a reason. According to Hicks and Gillette, the reason why Liverpool's board is willing to sell the club for less is because RBS has given it strict instructions to make sure Hicks and Gillette see no returns for their investments.

What returns are these guys going on about? Are they living in some parallel universe where Liverpool is a successful football club? Worse yet is how they claim there are parties out there willing to pay GBP400 million for the Reds. If that's true, how come we've never heard of them? I'm pretty sure they would have voiced their frustrations to the press, much like what Peter Lim has done.

But as Hicks and Gillette continue with their la-la land valuations for the club in their head, Liverpool's real market value has steadily dropped. Anyone can tell you that a team that's not in the Champions League and sitting third from the bottom in the Premier League is certainly not worth GBP400 million. Anyone that knows football that is, which is probably why they went to get an injunction from a district court in Texas where they've only heard about Liverpool in connection with the Beatles.

There's also another rumour floating around which makes even less sense but has gotten everyone's attention. US hedge fund, Mill Financial, which owns George Gillette's shares in the club after the the latter failed to repay a loan to the fund, has bought over Tom Hicks' shares in a private deal and is now the largest shareholder in the club and effectively the new owner. How this is has happened and whether it's true remains quite a mystery.

But I am a little baffled if such a thing can be allowed. Gillette shares can be held by Mill Financial because he had pledged his shares in Liverpool as collateral for the loan he took from the fund. But could have Mill Financial made a secret deal to buyout Hicks' shares yesterday?

From a corporate governance point of view, it would seem unlikely as the shareholders, based on their agreements with RBS, need to have board approval in order to sell the club. And since selling the club involves selling their shares, then wouldn't Hicks have needed board approval to sell his shares to Mill Financial?

Then there's the Premier League's rules. If indeed Mill Financial has acquired both Hicks and Gillette's stakes in the club, it would effectively be the new owner of Liverpool FC. But don't all new owners have to take a test from the Premier League? And seeing as to how the Premier League hasn't made any announcement regarding Mill Financial, it would then suggest that the latter hasn't yet become the new owners of the club and may very well fail the test.

What's a frightening prospect for Liverpool fans are rumours that Mill Financial's got enough to repay the RBS loan this week and will then seek another buyer for the club and send it further down the spiral. Worse of all, Hicks may still be involved in the picture.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hicks and Gillette on their way out! (Well, almost)

For the first time this season, Anfield Road's home team walked away with a resounding victory over its opponents. Only difference is that the victory was the off the field rather than on it but these days, as Liverpool fans will tell you, they'll take anything they can get. And this certainly was a much more significant event than the seven matches the Reds have played in the league this year.

More importantly, after nearly three years of boardroom tussles, mounting debt and general mismanagement, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel after the British High Court granted the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and injunction against Tom Hicks and George Gillette from trying to block the sale of Liverpool to New England Sports Venture (NESV). Better yet was the judge's refusal to allow Hicks and Gillette to appeal the decision.

And so, this time around, Liverpool led by its Chelsea supporting chairman, Martin Broughton and other members of the 'home team', managing director, Christian Purslow, and commercial director, Ian Ayre, had collectively delivered the Reds what many would consider the club's best goal of the season. Even RBS seemed more of a member of the home team today rather than an overly eager and anxious debt collector.

So what's next?

In lieu of Peter Lim's 11th hour bid yesterday, Broughton and the rest of the board will meet later today to deliberate on the sale of the club and consult their lawyers to see if Lim's bid can be entertained at all. Chances are high Lim's proposal will be rejected as the club now has a binding agreement with NESV after it accepted the latter's bid last week. And just as well. The last thing Broughton needs to do is sell the club to a Man U fan.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Is Peter Lim a Red Devil or a Red Herring? (And you were afraid of the Americans!)

If Liverpool fans have been a little bit skeptical on the prospect of having another American owner, they want to warm up the idea real soon. Like a scene out of some Hollywood film, another bidder has emerged at the 11th hour to wrest control of the club away from Tom Hicks, George Gillette and the looming threat of administration.

Only thing is, this 11th hour bidder is no knight in white shinning armor. On the contrary, this supposed saviour is more likely to be found wearing a red shirt with the emblem of a devil holding a trident. Yes, Singaporean businessman, Peter Lim, is a Man Utd supporter!

So what on earth is a Utd supporter doing trying to buy Liverpool? Isn't that like a sure recipe for a quick and painful death? Think about it. He'll be hated at Liverpool for being a Man Utd supporter but shunned at Old Trafford for having the cheek to buy over its biggest rivals. If Liverpool fans had some doubts about John W Henry and New England Sports Ventures (NESV), they might start rooting for the Boston Red Sox owners now.

But what are the implications of Lim's last-minute bid?

For starters, his bid is GBP20 million higher than NESV. Secondly, he threw in his new offer around the same time the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Hicks and Gillette are battling in the High Court over whether the American duo can stop the sale of the club to NESV. In contention, particularly, is an alleged letter of undertaking from Hicks while refinancing the club's debt with RBS that gives the bank the right to appoint members of the board to sell the club.

Hicks and Gillette on the other hand attempted to block the sale to NESV by having both Liverpool managing director, Christian Purslow and commercial director, Ian Ayre, removed from the board and replaced with Hicks Jr and another party aligned with the Americans. But under the alleged letter of undertaking from Hicks during the club's refinancing, the American duo have no power over the composition or members of Liverpool's board.

Even if the High Court is not able to come up with a judgment this week, the club will surely fall into the hands of RBS by the end of the week when the club's debt to the bank is up. Should that happen, reports indicate RBS would very likely proceed with the sale of the club to NESV instead of putting Liverpool under administration and facing a possible nine-point deduction.

So it would seem that all is lost for Hicks and Gillette. Until the last minute entrance of Man Utd fan Peter Lim. So far, the Liverpool board have shown no interest or made no comments about considering or accepting Lim's offer.

That, however, could prove to be a salient point in Hicks and Gillette's argument on the competency of Purslow, Ayre and chairman, Martin Broughton. After all, the Americans could argue that only an incompetent board would choose to ignore a counter-bid for the club, especially when the new bid is higher than NESV's.

Should Hicks and Gillette convince the courts that Broughton, Purslow and Ayre haven't been acting in the club's best interest, there might be a way back for the American duo into the picture and the removal of the other three directors from the Liverpool board would be a surety.

Unless Broughton, Purslow and Ayre can prove that Lim is in actuality a red herring meant to block the sale of the club to NESV, which in my opinion, seems more likely. After all, if Lim is and has been serious about buying the club, why has he waited until the 11th hour to make his bid? Liverpool announced it had accepted NESV's bid mid last week while the Premier League approved of the takeover by Friday. Why didn't Lim announce his presence then?

Was it because he didn't have the extra cash in hand and had to raise it by some other means? And what about his allegiance to Man Utd. Here's a man who owns several Man Utd-themed restaurants and bars in the region. Why would he want to come to Liverpool's rescue?

Funnier yet is his announcement that he'll allocated GBP40 million for Roy Hodgson in January. GBP40 million can't buy you more than two world class footballers these days and Liverpool's in need of a lot more than just two. It's almost laughable to think that Lim intends to return Liverpool to their glory days with just GBP40 million.

This isn't the first time Hicks and Gillette have put red herrings on the bidding table in effort to increase another party's offer price. Earlier in the summer, Syrian-Canadian businessman, Yahya Kirdi was suspected to be acting in concert with Hicks and Gillette to increase the value of the other bids for Liverpool.

Last and not least, it seems extremely likely that Hicks would go through such lengths to maintain control over Liverpool although his reasons for doing so is anyone's guess. Already a hated figure at Anfield and by Liverpool fans the world over, Hicks will probably go down as the most hated figure in soccer should he succeed in stalling the sale of the club.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What if football and Formula One were sports in the Commonwealth Games?

I know. You're wondering why I'm writing about Formula One and the Commonwealth Games in a blog dedicated to football and the BPL.

But what do you do when there's no football (except for boring qualifiers), qualification for the Japanese GP is postponed and every other channel on TV is broadcasting the Commonwealth Games? You come up with all sorts of ideas, most of which seem fun but extremely unlikely to ever come to fruition.

And so, in a bid to make the Commonwealth Games a little more exciting and interesting (who the hell wants to watch lawn bowling?) I would like to propose to the Commonwealth Games Federation the inclusion of football and Formula One for the next installation of the games in Glasgow in 2014.

For football, there shouldn't be any limits to the number of senior professionals that can feature in the games. This will certainly increase viewership and interest in the Commonwealth Games. And this way, the organisers of the games will be able to see some returns on the enormous investment that was allocated for the games.

Best of all, including football might even give England a chance at winning something. After all, there won't be any of those pesky European and South American nations to foil England's chances. Heck, Capello would have to go out of his way just to screw this one up.

Then there's Formula One, another sport that would give the games a solid adrenaline (and ratings) boost.

Again, advantage will go to England, seeing as to how they would be able to field two former world champions - Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button - represent them.

A close second would probably be Australia thanks to Mark Webber. Third place would probably be battled out by India (Karun Chandok and Narain Karthikeyen) and Malaysia (Fairuz Fauz and the retired Alex Yoong).

Speaking of retirees, Scotland could have a chance if they can manage to convince David Coulthard to come out of retirement and race for them.

As for the cars itself, the teams will have to use brands that represent their country. As such, Hamilton and Button will be able still be able to drive McLarens but Webber may have to settle for a Holden formula car (yikes!). I don't think I have to tell you which brands will be featured in the India vs Malaysia fight for third place (I'm not going to mention the Malaysian brand as it seems very touchy about the usage of its name these days).

But this rule could also give Canada a chance. The Canadian government is currently one of the shareholders at General Motors. Thus, they could utilise GM's capabilities to put out a decent car. As for race tracks, why not make things interesting by having street races instead of investing millions on a track?

Of course, none of this will ever occur. The BPL will put up a strong fight to prevent their season being interrupted by another distraction like the Commonwealth games while the cost of setting up Formula One teams for the games will eclipse the entire budget for the rest of the participating athletes.

Still, it's always fun to dream.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Boardroom slugfest at Anfield?

As Liverpool fans (at least some) begin rejoicing over the prospect of new ownership, the club's current shareholders are apparently ready to throw a spanner into the works and block the deal.

While on one hand, it would appear that Liverpool's current owners should have a say on who they sell to, the nature of their debt with RBS is such that the board, which was given the task of finding new owners by the bank, has equal amount or more power to push through a deal.

While I won't dwell too deeply on the law in Britain, I do have one question: What is it going to take for those two dipshits to realise they'll never get GBP600 million for Liverpool? For that matter GBP400 million seems way too much for a club languishing in the relegation zone!

Don't they realise that the longer they prolong this process, the lower the value of the club will be? I mean Roy Hodgson has so far demonstrated an ability to do nothing to stop the downward spiral at Anfield and it appears as though learning from one's mistakes is not one of his qualities.

To top it all off, refusing to sell the club now will tarnish the duo's image to greater lengths. As if they aren't hated enough, blocking this deal could have the potential of making Tom Hicks and George Gillette even more hated than Osama Bin Laden!

As for Hodgson, I hope he doesn't spend too much time worrying about this when he's got much bigger concerns on his table at the moment. Once you've got the Kop chanting another manager's name, you know you've got your work cut out for you.

Liverpool sold to owners of the Red Sox!

It appears as though one of the longest and drawn out M&A sagas of the Premier League is about to end. Various reports, citing Reds chairman, Martin Broughton, say Liverpool FC has finally been sold to New England Sport Venture (NESV), owners of baseball giants, the Boston Red Sox.

Of course, the story doesn't end there. Broughton added that the club may enter legal proceedings against its current owners who unsurprisingly were against the sale and tried to block the deal - by sacking managing director, Christian Purslow and commercial director, Ian Ayre, at the 11th hour.

And why were they against the sale? Well, according to these reports, NESV has offered GBP300 million which is well below the GBP600 million Tom Hicks and George Gillette were holding out for.

Soccernet also reports that Roy Hodgson, who has successfully led the club to its worst start in almost 50 years, will still have a job when NESV officially take over, which is anyone's guess if legal proceedings are initiated against the current owners.

But will this have any effect at all on Liverpool's on-field problems? And will the Kop accept another set of American owners? Stay tuned for more updates.

You can read about the takeover here and here

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deshamps: Liverpool wanted me

What is it with football managers who deem it necessary to announce the clubs they've rejected in the past? Take Marseille boss Didier Deschamps for instance. As if Liverpool didn't need more off-the-field distractions, the former French captain has now revealed that he was interviewed for the job before the club approached Roy Hodgson but rejected the move to stay at Marseille.

Is there a reason Deschamps is revealing this now, months after the incident? Is this about inflating his ego? Or is it a reminder to his employers at Marseille that he's a highly-sought after manager and its time to talk contract renewal? Or is he reminding Hodgson that the Englishman wasn't Liverpool's first choice?

If it's the latter, one can only speculate on Deschamps' ulterior motive unless Hodgson's position at Anfield is not as solid as he makes it out to be. It isn't uncommon for clubs to fire new managers (remember Big Sam and Newcastle) and Liverpool's miserable start to the season would only compound speculation that Hodgson's job could be on the line if things don't improve soon enough.

Liverpool's performances on the field have been amateurish at best judging by the way they've been outplayed by teams such as Birmingham and Sunderland. You could call it "early season blues" and the Reds have never been known to be early starters but the severe lack of confidence and coordination in the side points directly at Hodgson as much as it does at the players themselves.

Still, who - with the exception of Sven Goran Ericsson - would want to take this job? Would anyone be willing to coach a side with Liverpool's current crop of players with an almost non-existent transfer budget?

Still, let's not forget that it's still way too early to cast a verdict on Hodgson yet and the man certainly deserves time to prove himself to the Liverpool faithful, his rivals as well as to Monsieur Deschamps.

Unfortunately for Hodgson, time and patience are luxuries that expire real quick at Anfield.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mirror likens Fergie to North Korea's Dear Leader

In Sir Alex Ferguson's world, he is rarely wrong about anything. He's lambasted referees when decisions don't go his way while praising terrible ones as long as they give United a penalty or two. He's always ready for a post-match interview when United has collected all three points but nowhere in sight when the Devils lose. Yes, Sir "Double Standards" Ferguson he certainly is but when you've won as much as he has, you tend to think the world revolves around you.

And so Fergie's latest fight has taken him to another old nemesis -no, not Arsene Wenger - which is the media. With Wayne Rooney's slump getting worse each match, Fergie has had to come out and defend his star striker and has accused pressure from the media on the England's star's private life as the main culprit for the striker's barren run.

In the Scotsman's defence, he's probably somewhat correct about the negative effects the media can have on footballers. But blaming the media for Rooney's poor form is an exaggeration and an easy target. Perhaps we can brush his memory up and remind him that Rooney's poor form began in South Africa, long before any story of his alleged infidelities surfaced.

But this isn't Fergie's first outburst at the media. Last year, he suggested the majority of journalists and newspapers in England took great delight whenever United lose a match (how would he know if he's never there for the post-match conference). Then there's his ongoing feud with the BBC.

Anyways, the media, or the Mirror at least, has hit back at the Man Utd gaffer by suggesting he should quit the Old Trafford outfit and take over from Kim Jung Ill.

"He would revel in the North Korean us-against-the-world siege mentality and how he must often wish he could cut himself off like them.

"The biggest attraction of the job by far, apart from the temptation to nuke Anfield and Eastlands, would be the media - or lack of it - in the Asian country.

"There would be no pesky journalists to annoy him by reporting what he actually said in press conferences when he deems to have one and perhaps best of all, no BBC.

"Instead he would directly control the state-run media so that Wayne Rooney's problems would be conveyed to the public as a dastardly plot by agents from Liverpool FC to discredit the young hero of the Democratic People's Republic " - David Anderson, Mirror Football.

You can read the entire article here. If anything, the humour and comparisons to "Dear Leader" are funny enough to make diehard United fans laugh. Or maybe Fergie was right and the English press don't like Man Utd.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

City gives Ancelotti the blues

OK then, I was wrong about the outcome of the City - Chelsea clash. As it turns out, City is quite capable of turning on some fine displays against big sides and Ancelotti's men never looked capable of clawing back into the game.

Much of it had to do with City's discipline throughout the match in ensuring there was barely any room for Chelsea to get into their usual game. It also had to do with the fact that Chelsea's creativity level was next to zero as a result of Frank Lampard's absence.

But more importantly, this was Chelsea's first match against a decent side this season and perhaps an indication that that it won't be that easy for the Blues to retain the title this season.

Back to City, while fully deserving of all three points, I still retain my earlier view that Mancini's side still aren't title contenders just yet. This was City's third win out of six games this season and they certainly need to be a little bit more consistent if they really are looking to taking a shot at the title race.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Man City vs Chelsea : Clash of the Titans? Think again.

A year ago, former Man City manager, Mark Hughes suggested that the match between his side and Chelsea was big enough to overshadow the Man Utd vs Liverpool match that same weekend. No one really knows what Sparky meant by those comments - the results of the City vs Chelsea certainly didn't live up to the Welshmen's billing - but it's commonly accepted that Hughes was merely taking a dig at his former boss, Sir Alex Ferguson, in implying City, after a summer of some insane spending, was now bigger than United.

Still, pre-match banter aside, Sparky's comments that day certainly revealed City's true ambition which is to be the biggest club in England. But is City any closer to making that a reality this season?

Despite spending more money than anyone else (Sparky and Mancini's transfer budget over the last two seasons could probably buy Northampton), City still look years away from being genuine title contenders.

Despite an emphatic 3-0 win over Liverpool, Roberto Mancini's side has looked disorganised and ill-equipped to face smaller sides like Sunderland and Blackburn Rovers that are more than ready to frustrate bigger - or in City's case, more expensively assembled - sides. And let's face it, just about anyone can beat Liverpool these days.

So, the big question is, will City be able to stamp their title credentials against Premier League defending champions Chelsea tonight? Judging by the way Carlo Ancelotti's side has been steam-rolling past their opponents, it seems very unlikely that City will muster enough to pull off a historic upset. Clash of the Titans? Think again. This, barring any freak incidents, should be another walk in the park for Chelsea. This then brings us to a bigger question. How come money can buy success for some teams and not others?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are you really surprised Mr Hodgson?

"These players have to accept responsibility. I accept responsibility for changing a lot of players in the team, I did it because I honestly thought the players I put on the field were good enough to win the game and they weren't"
The comments above were made by Roy Hodgson following Liverpool's shock defeat to Northampton in the Carling Cup and if anything, in the middle of the expected barrage of criticism that will be aimed at him in the following days, there will be some who will sympathize with the Englishman.

After all, you can't get any more honest than Hodgson did in his post-match comments. He was under the illusion Liverpool Football Club's reserves would be better than a League Two side, especially with five first team squad members included.

Alas, the truth is Mr Hogdson, 50% of the players you've got in your senior squad aren't fit to feature in any League Two side let alone a Premier League club. But weren't you aware of this when you took on the job?

The frightening level of mediocrity at Liverpool has been well-documented and you can thank the previous management for that. And yes, maybe you should have sold Ryan Babel when you had the chance to and there's a reason why Lucas Leiva gets booed by the home fans.

But that's just it. Everyone knows that Rafa Benitez made some terrible acquisitions yet many of these third-rate players (read Maxi Rodriguez, Lucas, Babel, etc) seem to be regular features in Hodgson's side. In fact, Hodgson had the chance to offload these players and bring in some new faces during the recent transfer window but for some weird reason or other, he chose to stick with Benitez' flops.

And now his faith in these players is being repaid in the form of Liverpool's worst ever start to the Premier League. Even if he's finally caught on to this fact, it's too late to do anything at this point and he's stuck with them until January. And if Liverpool's position isn't any better then, Hodgson may find himself to be the first one out the door.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Redknapp slams Torres!

Former Liverpool and England midfielder, Jaime Redknapp, became the latest 'pundit' to critisize Fernando Torres' poor form for Liverpool this season after the Reds' dismal draw against Birmingham.

"Out there for 45 minutes today he (Torres) has been terrible. He hasn't got hold of the ball, he hasn't chased, he's got frustrated, he could have been booked, he's been diabolical," Redknapp said.

Very few would have been able to argue with Redknapp on Torres' performance yesterday but like so many others, the former Reds captain seems to have missed the various factors that led to Torres poor performance yesterday.

As such, I've volunteered myself to list down several reasons that could have contributed to Liverpool's lack of firepower up front.

1. Torres operated much on his own for most of the match and hardly received the sort of decent service any striker would expect. In fact, until the final 20 minutes of the match, Torres' supposed 'striking' partner, Steven Gerrard, was equally anonymous on the pitch.

Service down the flanks was even poorer thanks to some awful football by both Maxi Rodriguez and Milan Jovanovic. The fullbacks weren't any better although Koncesky did deliver a few decent crosses into the box in the second half. Glen Johnson, on the other hand, is looking more and more like an overrated footballer each weekend.

2. Birmingham defended in numbers which made Liverpool's entire tactical approach to the game of deploying a lone striker destined for failure the second the match got underway. Other clubs may be able to pull the one-striker policy but in those cases, the midfielders do lots of the attacking and shooting as well.

In Liverpool's case, Hodgson's five-man midfield was a bizzare mix that couldn't get any rhythm or flow into the game. As previously mentioned, both wingers were abysmal throughout the match with Rodriguez, in particular, nowhere to be seen for extended periods of the game. But the wingers were certainly better than Hodgson's two 'holding' midfielders who failed to stamp any authority in the middle of the park let alone break up play or provide some support to Torres.

3. Torres is clearly not match-fit and seeing as to how this is his fourth game after being injured for over a month on top of the many injuries he has sustained the past 12 months, you would think that an injury-prone ex-footballer like Jaime Redknapp would have some empathy instead of getting on some high horse.

If memory serves me, Redknapp spent more time injured than on the pitch for Liverpool during his entire tenure as a senior team player. Redknapp, much like his former England colleague, Kieron Dyer, are the kind of footballers who have spent more time injured than playing football much to the agony of the clubs that paid for their "services."

4. Torres' contribution to Liverpool FC this season can't be summarised in just four matches. Redknapp should note that the Spaniard has become the fastest Liverpool player to have scored 50 goals in the history of the club. As such, going back to point number 3, Torres has clearly been a much better investment for Liverpool than Redknapp ever was.

I don't know if Jaime Redknapp will ever read this but if he's looking to vent his frustrations at Liverpool's terrible performance against Birmingham yesterday, he should look elsewhere and not focus on Torres. After all, the Spaniard isn't a Superman.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Queiroz sacked!

Former Man Utd no two, Carlos Queiroz, has been handed his walking papers by the Portuguese Football Federation (PFF) barely two years after being appointed to replace Luiz Scolari as Portugal's manager.

Despite a lacklustre showing in the World Cup and the possibility of a six-month ban for disrupting drug tests on the national team, the move by the PFF does come as quite a shock.

Perhaps Portugal's 4-4 draw and 1-0 defeat to Cyrpus and Norway respectively in the Euro qualifiers nailed it for Queiroz. Still, Portugal under Queiroz, while not as spectacular as their Spanish cousins, have generally been consistent in producing results.

Then again, when the 'best player in the world' is in your side, you're expected to do a little better than average. And let's not forget the fact this was Queiroz' second stint in-charge of the Portuguese national team.

But from a larger perspective, Queiroz' latest sacking brings about the question if at all any of Sir Alex Ferguson's deputies will ever amount to one-tenth of the Scotsman's success. This isn't, after all, Queiroz' first sacking.

If you remember, the first time he left the Devils was to take on the top job at Real Madrid. When that expired (six months later, I think), he managed to get a second chance at Old Trafford. But when Portugal came calling a few years later, Queiroz packed his bags again.

Queiroz' roller-coaster of a managerial career reminds me a bit of another former Man Utd number two who could only afford mediocrity after leaving Sir Alex' coaching team - Steve McClaren. I think most Boro and England fans have blacked out the McClaren years - such was the disappointment of his tenures at both clubs. Are all of Ferguson's deputies destined for failure the second they walk out of Old Trafford?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fergie still won't talk to the BBC; weekend round-up

Sir Alex Ferguson may be getting the rap from the Premier League for continuing an on-going six year feud with the BBC. The Premier League isn't particularly interested in the feud itself but consequences of it: Ferguson apparently vowed never to speak to the BBC again in 2004 and hasn't granted it a single interview since! 

The feud apparently stems from a report by the BBC in 2004 on Ferguson's son, Jason, who was a football agent. Needless to say, the piece wasn't too flattering (at least in the eyes of the Ferguson family) and a feud was born. Here's what Fergie had to say about the BBC in 2007 as reported by the Independent:

"They did a story about my son that was whole lot of nonsense. It all made-up stuff and 'brown paper bags' and all that kind of carry-on. It was a horrible attack on my son's honour and he should never have been accused of that.

"But it is such a huge organisation that they will never apologise. They don't even care if you sue them or whatever, because they are so huge and have insurance. They carry on regardless and it's breathtaking."
The Premier League is now looking at stepping in to resolve the matter. For one, the BBC can't be too happy that it's been unable to conduct a single interview with the legendary Scot. This, of course, doesn't bode too well for the BBC considering the fact that there are fewer stories bigger than Man Utd. 
As for the Premier League? I guess they aren't too happy that the most successful manager in Premier League history doesn't give post-match interviews to the biggest news organisation in Britain.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Huang abandons Liverpool bid

Hong Kong businessman, Kenny Huang, has put an end to his company's bid to takeover Liverpool. Huang was reportedly frustrated with the lack of progress on the negotiation table with Liverpool's board after tabling a bid several weeks ago. A statement from Huang's QSL Sports, as reported by BBC Sport, said:

"Over the past few months we learned first hand that Liverpool has a very special place in the hearts of millions of fans around the world.

"We concluded that a plan that properly capitalises the business and provides funds for a new stadium and player related costs would allow Liverpool FC to provide its great fans with the success they deserve.

"Our strategy and unique ability to expand the fanbase in Asia would also have been of benefit to all. We regret that we will not have the opportunity to implement this strategy."

Initial reports had suggested that a delay in Huang's or any other takeover bid for the club was due to a Premier League ruling that requires prospective buyers to show proof of funds and that none of Liverpool's suitors had completed that process. That theory, however, has been ruled out as BBC Sport says that Huang had provided proof of his funds.

This would then lead many to conclude that Huang's decision to withdraw his bid owes to the fact that Liverpool's American owners had no intention of selling the club to him and were still holding out for a higher offer. If this is true, it illustrates a very bleak future for the football club as Huang had been tipped to be the best and only candidate available to rescue Liverpool from their financial woes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fergie starts the mind games with City

No one doubts Sir Alex Ferguson's expertise in the art of mind games. The Scot has traded barbs with so many of his counterparts over the years that it's highly unlikely his peers will throw him a farewell bash when he finally retires. Just about anyone who's posed a threat to United's domination in Premier League has been a victim of Fergie's infamous mind game. And from Kevin Keegan to Arsene Wenger, Sir Alex has always, one way or another, emerged the victor in psychological warfare.

This leads us to his latest battle against his new foe, Man City, by labeling the club's transfer policy as "kamikaze." From a neutral's stand point, it would appear that Ferguson's remarks over another team's spending policy is laced with envy. Everyone is now quite familiar with Man Utd's financial woes and their lack of presence in the transfer market this season only confirms just how limited the funds are at Old Trafford. 

Furthermore, Man City isn't by a long shot the first club to be splashing it's cash in the transfer market. Chelsea held that status a few years back while Real Madrid's transfer budget two seasons ago would make City's spending this summer look like child's play. 

But Roberto Mancini, like his predecessor, seems to have fallen straight into Fergie's trap and has had to come out and defend his summer spending spree. The fact that Fergie's remarks come right after City's dour draw against Spurs may indicate his real aim: to remind City's billionaire owners just how reckless their manager has been with their cash. 

In fact, Fergie did the same thing a year ago to Mark Hughes when he labelled the City a "small club" and commented on the wisdom of signing too many strikers (for those who don't remember, City signed Tevez, Adebayor and Santa Cruz last season). We'll never the true impact of his comments but it certainly heaped more pressure on Hughes who was trying to put City alongside United in stature in Manchester. As expected Hughes couldn't justify his transfer policy and was later sacked. 

It would seem as though Mancini is now a target and all Fergie needs to do is keep reminding the Italian's bosses on how badly he's spent their money. It doesn't take a genius to realise the sort of pressure Mancini is already going through without entering a war of words with the Old Trafford boss. But the effects of those mind games of Fergie' is not just targeted at Mancini but at his signings themselves who are already under tremendous pressure to deliver. 

In the big picture, it does seem a little odd that Ferguson would choose to pick on City who, as far as most pundits are concerned, will not be a threat to United or Chelsea this season. But then again, for Sir Alex, this is about who is the biggest club in Manchester.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

New faces at City but same old story

Looks like Roberto Mancini and his predecessor do have one thing in common: the innate ability to translate obscene transfer expenditure into nothing. After commanding the position of biggest spenders in Premiership for the second straight season in a row, Mancini's Man City bore remarkable similarities to the City under Hughes.

The Man City that turned up at White Hart Lane was weak in both the midfield and defensive departments and often bereft of ideas up front. It was almost as though City hadn't spent any money this summer! Their best spell of the game was perhaps in the opening minutes of the game when new signing David Silva demonstrated some of the qualities that made him one of the most sought-after wingers in the last few years. But after the seventh minute or so, Silva then decided to pursue the art of obscurity on the pitch much like what he did in the World Cup in South Africa which earned him a near permanent spot on Vicente Del Bosque's bench.

But Silva wasn't the only one guilty of being engulfed in that sea of white in midfield. Many of his teammates were caught catching a cat nap on several occasions, especially the ones in defense. Fortunately for Mancini, Joe Hart played the game of his life today. One wonders if Shay Given would've been able to have withstood that onslaught on Hart's goal.

To a certain degree, City will be happy to take a point off from a game in which they were second best by a mile. But chances are Mancini won't be taking out his players for a celebratory drink this weekend after that poor performance.

As for Tottenham, all I can say is that Harry Redknapp's side was unbelievably unlucky not to have taken all three points today. They did everything right and looked even stronger than they were last season. What's perhaps most impressive are the various attacking options in his side. If this a sign of things to come, it could be a good season ahead for Spurs fans.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

No More Becks for England!

It has to be a dry day at the rags when the biggest story is the end of David Beckham's England career. I can't quite say the news came as a surprise. Who would've thought that an injury-prone 35-year footballer would be forced out of the England squad? If Gareth Barry and John Terry can be considered too old for England, did Becks ever stand a chance?

Maybe all the hoopla has something to do with the fact that Becks has been England's biggest footballing sensation for over a decade. No other English player has reached the heights of fame and stardom as Beckham has and by the looks of it, it will remain that way for some time. Yet, the reluctance in letting Beckham go also speaks volume of the confidence English fans have in the future. Expect to see similar despair when Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney finally call it a day on their respective international careers.

But at the same time, while Beckham is being dropped for all the valid reasons, it just seems a little rich that it's Capello who's being merciless on the chopping block for the sake of "England's future." Now, if Capello was serious about England's future, he'd volunteer his head on to the block first before any player.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Is Villa's season over before it even begins?

It's never good to lose a manager mid-way through a season but it's about a million times worse when it happens five days before the campaign begins. As such, even without kicking a ball, Aston Villa are finding themselves being written off by most pundits while their odds of qualifying for the Champions League seems to have taken a steep dive.

The rags and Internet have been filled with all sorts of rumours as to why Martin O'Neill would have left his club in such dire straits on such a short notice. And to have done it to them just before their first match is almost akin to giving them the kiss of death which in many ways is quite unfair a side with as much talent and potential as Villa. When you consider just how young this side is, you really wonder if these players have the mentality to last through what will be a lengthy unsettling period for the club.

Some claim O'Neill had been disgruntled with his employer, Randy Lerner, for some time due to (yeah, you guessed it) a lack of funds and the straw that broke the camel's back was the club's willingness to sell James Milner to Man City. Milner, if you recall, was one of O'Neill's success stories in the transfer market when he bought him from Newcastle United. Milner flourished under O'Neill so it's no surprise then that former Celtics manager was incensed with the club's decision to sell the England winger. Then there are other rumours that another young star at the club, Ashley Young, was also on his way out to a bigger club. No one likes losing their best players, especially when you've been developing them for years.

But O'Neill's frustrations with his board are rumoured to have begun back in March this year which then begs the question why he chose to dump his club five days before the new season began.

The big question now is what happens to Villa in O'Neill's absence. Most of the best managers in the game are all employed and the likes of David Moyes have ruled themselves out. Then again, there are managers like Diego Maradona who are unemployed but I doubt the former Argentine gaffer is seeking life in the Premiership.

There is also a big chance that many of Villa's stars may end up leaving before the transfer window closes at the end of the month if they feel the club's prospects are heading south. Expect to see transfer requests by the likes of Young and Agbonlahor. At the end of the day, Villa's fans, and to some extent Premier League fans in general, will be the biggest losers as one of the league's most exiting teams is headed for its demise.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Here we go again

Once again, Liverpool is rumoured to be the subject of a takeover a bid and this time, Chinese businessman, Kenny Huang, is leading a consortium of sovereign funds to rescue the Reds from the doldrums under Tom Hicks and George Gillette.

Unlike previous rumours, Liverpool's chairman, Martin Broughton, has announced that aside from Huang there are several other parties interested in buying over Britain's most successful football club and that a new owner may be in charge by Aug 31. Huang, on the other hand, has apparently given Hicks and Gillette 10 days to accept his offer.

Huang, like any rational thinking businessman, isn't interested in getting into a protracted buy over of the club that could well last six months or more. By then, who knows what Liverpool would be worth as manager Roy Hogdson would be deprived of some much needed transfer funds to build a squad worthy of challenging for honours. In fact, Huang has plainly said that he wouldn't be interested in buying over the Reds if he isn't able to provide Hogdson with the necessary funds to strengthen the squad.

While this would make perfect sense to the average football fan with a functional brain, the same can't be said about Hicks and Gillette. In fact, it's almost a mystery how these two amassed all their wealth. Despite pricing Liverpool at a ridiculous tag of GBP800 million, neither one of them seem serious about it. The Reds have had an array of suitor over the past 12 months and yet the two of them have rejected all bids.

During that course, Liverpool's fortunes have floundered with the Reds eventually finishing seventh in the league and missing out on the money-making Champions League. Likewise, the club's valuation has plummeted in line with it's endeavors on the pitch. This in turn has made it even harder for American duo to justify their hefty price tag of GBP800 million. Had they sold the club in January, there may have been a possibility of obtaining a bid for GBP500 million. Now, they'd be lucky to even get GBP400 million. And Liverpool's valuations are set to continue declining if Hodgson doesn't get to strengthen his squad.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Fergie eying Mesut Ozil?

It's been a rather quiet summer for Man Utd and you'd think there would be some big movements in and out of Old Trafford after losing the league title to Chelsea last season. Yes, they have signed on Mexican star Javier Hernandez but that barely seems like enough for the Devils.

Enter Mesut Ozil.

The latest rumours in the English gossip rags and cyberspace is that Sir Alex is lining up a stunning bid for Germany's World Cup star, Mesut Ozil. The 21-year-old sensation was certainly one of the biggest stories in this World Cup and he has expectedly begun attracting the attention of the big boys.

So far, the Werder Bremen playmaker has been linked with moves to Man Utd, Spurs and Arsenal (wouldn't he fit right in with that squad?) and of course, Real Madrid. The only difference this time, which incidentally gives the Premiership boys a chance, is that Madrid aren't keen on signing him this season but next season when his contract at Werder Bremen ends and he can leave as a free agent. I don't know what to make of this rumour but if true, it would indicate a serious financial problem at the Bernabeu.

But should Ozil ignore Madrid, and there are a few reasons to back this theory (1. He seems pretty intelligent), and choose a move to the Devils, Ferguson would finally be able to fill in the void left by Cristiano Ronaldo two seasons ago. Additionally, should Wayne Rooney's lacklustre form in front of goal continue, Ferguson is going to need some serious firepower to fill in and no one in his side currently qualifies for that position. Yes, this would certainly be a good move for United.

On the other hand, if the rumours are true and funds are limited at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger should go against his norm and sign on the midfielder. Ozil's got creativity, skill, good passing and shooting abilities and speed; the kind of stuff Wenger's Arsenal thrive on.

Is Wenger delaying the inevitable?

So it turns out that the Fabregas - Barcelona rumour has become THE transfer rumour of the summer. And as expected, it appears as though Arsene Wenger has shut the door on any possibility of Barcelona signing the Gunners midfield maestro, Cesc Fabregas.

No one rational would have expected otherwise but it would help if we actually heard from Fabregas himself and found out if it is indeed the midfielder's dream to join the Catalans. In fact very players can boast to have as many admirers in Barcelona as Fabregas does and I'm not referring to the fans. Barcelona stars, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Gerrard Pique have all openly spoken of their admiration for Fabregas with the latter two even going as far as putting on a Barcelona jersey on Fabregas during the Spanish team's recent World Cup celebrations.

With such intense lobbying from Fabregas' Spanish teammates in the Barcelona team, it is worth speculating if the Arsenal captain himself has privately admitted of his desire to return to the Nou Camp. After all, it is pretty uncommon to see these Barcelona players openly lobby for a player to join the club. Even rumours of Fernando Torres or Javier Mascherano joining the Catalans hasn't generated a single response from anyone in Josep Guardiola's side.

So yes, maybe Fabregas himself needs to come out in the open and set the record straight. And if the rumours are true, Arsene Wenger better start hunting for an able replacement now as there would be little point in trying to constantly scuttle the move.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Will the Reds survive without Mascherano?

After months of speculation, it appears as though Argentina skipper, Javier Mascherano, is finally on his way out of Anfield with Inter Milan seemingly his most likely destination. I can't say anyone's really surprised by this turn of events, least of all Roy Hodgson. When your player doesn't answer your text messages, it's time to move on (talk about professionalism though!).

The big question now is what Hodgson plans to do with the cash raised from selling Mascherano. At present valuations, it appears as though Liverpool won't part with anything less than GBP25 million for Mascherano which would certainly boost Hogdson's summer kitty. But will Hodgson use that cash for a direct replacement (the name Rafael Van Der Vaart comes to mind)or will he move Steven Gerrard back into central midfield to partner Alberto Aquilani or the dreadful Lucas Leiva. New signing Joe Cole can then be moved up to his preferred position behind the striker.

All these permutations are certainly going through Hogdson's mind at the moment. But in reference to the biggest question of all (will the Reds survive without Mascherano?), I think the answer is pretty straightforward yes.

No one doubt's Mascherano's commitment and contributions to Liverpool the past few years. But in view of Liverpool's performances last season, where Mascherano was tasked with filling in for Xabi Alonso's absence, it became quite plain to see that Mascherno's abilities are rather limited. Sure, he's great at tackling and frustrating opponents. But he is most effective alongside another midfielder capable of taking over all the distribution responsibilities.

Even in the recent World Cup, especially when he was up against Bastion Schweinsteiger, Mascherano's limited abilities were on full display. And it's for these reasons that Hodgson shouldn't feel too bad about losing one of his biggest star names. Don't get me wrong, Mascherano's exit will be felt but if Hodgson plays his cards right, the Reds should be alright.

Funny Football Commercial about Premier League

This is pretty hilarious!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The end of an Era

Raul Gonzalez, Real Madrid's all-time goalscorer, said farewell to the club he's served his entire professional career at for a stint at either the Bundesliga or the Premier League (initial reports suggesting Raul had signed on a two-year deal at Schalke appear untrue).

In many ways it's sad to see someone like Raul, who had such an illustrious career at Madrid, have to leave at the twilight of his career to avoid spending another season on the bench.

Just like Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs, Raul was one of those players you could see spending his entire career at his boyhood club, which is something of a rarity these days. Still, don't feel too sorry for him. Not many players can boast a similar trophy cabinet to the one Raul's got (except for the two other players I just mentioned...maybe it does pay to be loyal!).

As for Raul the footballer, he was the embodiment of the modern striker or at least what more strikers should aspire to be. He was both a finisher and a supplier. He had deft touches and was fast when needed and above all, he was always two steps ahead. I tried looking for some classic Raul videos and stumbled upon this one which is the Champions League quarterfinal between Real Madrid and Man Utd in 2000. Raul scores two goals in this one. The clip is a little long but worth watching (especially that piece of sublime skill from Redondo!). Enjoy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

France national team banned (for one game only).

Back in university, I distinctively remember my journalism professors stressing the importance of good headlines. It had to be short, concise and above all, catchy. Even a Pulitzer Prize-winning story runs the risk of going unnoticed by readers if it isn't accompanied by a good headline. As such, news organisations, be it newspapers of the 24-hour cable news stations, strive real hard to come up with the best headlines to grab our attention.

Anyway, there I was sipping a cold one at my friendly neighbourhood pub absentmindedly watching a 24-hour cable news station being projected on screen that has seen better days when one headline on the news crawl caught by attention: "France World Cup squad suspended." Suspended?? I immediately turned to my drinking buddy to see if he caught the same headline. He did and he was just as puzzled. How does one suspend an entire World Cup squad? Due to the excessive noise at the bar (it was a Friday night after all), we weren't able to hear a word of what the newscaster had to say about the news. So we were left to our own devices to guess just what the headline meant.

Other news stations carried similar headlines such as "France squad banned!"and "Blanc suspends World Cup squad." And so we came up with all sorts of conclusion but the most common one that was derived from all these headlines was that Laurent Blanc had banned all 23-players in the France's embarrassing squad in the 2010 World Cup from playing for Les Blues for a long time.

Later when I got home, despite or due to my intoxicated state, I found myself extremely annoyed when I found out that the suspension on the French squad was for just one game and friendly at that! My annoyance wasn't so much at the fact that the French squad was getting off extremely easy after their shameful behaviour at the World Cup but more towards all those misleading headlines which suggested the squad was banned for at least a lengthy amount of time. I guess it was a dry day at the news stations that they had to play up such a mundane story. Still, couldn't they have been a little more truthful with their headlines? If there's one thing worse than a boring headline, it's a misleading one. Those are the worst.

On an added note, it's a bit sad, though not surprising, that new Les Blues coach, Laurent Blanc only chose to suspend France's World Cup misfits for one match only and that too a friendly. If anything, Nicolas Anelka and Patrice Evra should receive some lenghty bans from the national squad for their roles in the series of embarrassing espisodes in South Africa. Don't get me wrong. I'm not one to defend a manager as bad as Domonech but those two displayed a behaviour unfitting for a professional footballer. Period.

Say it isn't so Houllier!

You've got to hand it to Gerrard Houllier; he certainly knows when to pick a fight. Now that Rafa Benitez is no longer at Anfield, Houllier has launched an out-of-character attack on the Spaniard by claiming he was responsible for the Benitez' greatest achievement during his tenure at Liverpool: the 2005 Champions League.

It's a bit odd that Houllier is choosing to make a Mourinho-styled attack on Benitez NOW instead of saying something during the Spaniard's five years at Liverpool. But since Houllier brought it up, and since Benitez has been uncharacteristically quiet on the rebuttal, let me bring up a few points that might refresh the Frenchman's memory on how that 2005 Champions League campaign panned out.

First and foremost, no one, not even Rafa himself, would deny that the 2005 Champions League winning squad was by and large assembled and put together by Houllier in the previous seasons. And yes, of the three scorers on that historical night in Istanbul, two (Gerrard and Smicer) hailed from the Houllier regime. But the third Liverpool player on the score sheet that night was one of the five players brought in by Benitez in his first season in charge. And let's not forget that it was a pint size midfielder by the name of Luis Garcia who scored those decisive goals against Juventus and Chelsea that brought Liverpool to Istanbul in the first place.

So if my math serves me well, two out of the five players signed by Benitez played a huge part in winning Liverpool's fifth European Cup. Not a bad statistic, no? So yes, Houllier, 90% of that squad was built by you but it was two of Benitez' men that contributed more to that victory.

Friday, June 25, 2010

An Italian job gone horribly wrong

At some point in the coming days, as Marcello Lippi begins analyzing the factors that led to Italy's implosion in the 2010 World Cup, he might come to the conclusion that his players may have taken the Azzuri's status as perennial slow starters a little too far this time around.

Previous sides, including his 2006 squad, have always started poorly but improved as each game progressed. In most cases, the Azzuri would have at least gotten their act together by the third group match. This time around, however,Lippi's class of 2010 left it a little too late and began showing some sign of that footballing prowess the Italians are known for at the last 10 minutes of their third and most crucial group game.

To say that they left it late on purpose would be unfair to the Slovakians and in some ways excuse what was otherwise one of the worst performances by any side in this World Cup. Besides, the Italians seemed perfectly aware of the importance of the match long before Howard Webb blew his whistle for the kickoff, judging by the gusto in which they sang their national anthem.

Lippi's brave admission that their failure is his fault is commendable but at the same time puzzling as he keeps referring to the collective psychological weakness of his squad. Yet if that was the case, their late onslaught on the Slovakian goal mouth wouldn't have been possible.

Perhaps what Lippi needs to admit is the fact that his side weren't good enough to be at a World Cup. His tactics were deplorable but his players were worse. Some such as Pepe, Iaquinta, Montolivio and even Di Natale were amazingly amateurish and wouldn't have even made it to most national teams, Slovakia included. Then there was his decision to bring on the old boys of 2006. Cannavaro, once the world's best defender, was often a liability to the Azzuri's defense while Gattuso's cameo against Slovakia was just as memorable as Buffon's in the first match. Then there was Zambrotta who spent most of the matches anonymous. The only veteran deserving of a place in the squad was probably Pirlo but his 40 mins of involvement in game 3 was a little too late.

Still, there's nothing wrong in bringing in veterans but Lippi's selection of the veterans was most puzzling. Instead of just bringing in old defenders and wing backs who lack speed, why didn't Lippi consider the likes of Del Piero and Totti who would have been useful in playing just behind the front line or at set pieces. The Italians have always been known for their defense and creative players. This time around there were none.

But if there's a silver lining to their disaster at the World Cup, its the fact that they may finally realise that they can't keep living up to their "slow starter" status. The fact is the panic button should've been engaged in that first half against Paraguay in their first game. Not at the 80th minute against Slovakia at 2-0 down.

Monday, June 21, 2010

France training ground bust -up

Friday, June 4, 2010

And the hunt begins!

WANTED: Football manager with extensive experience, preferably one with the know-how and capabilities of winning the Barclays Premier League and the UEFA Champions League within an unreasonable amount of time. Unbalanced squad with real danger of losing star players. Annual transfer budget of GBP5 million. Manager must also strive towards reducing club debt and possess excellent command of English and Spanish.

The job ad above maybe a work of fiction but Liverpool's board might as well put it up in the classifieds starting this week now that the Anfield outfit has finally parted ways with the seemingly irremovable Rafa Benitez. At a time when signing on new managers has become as expensive as signing footballers, Liverpool's board couldn't have picked a better time to give Benitez the boot.

While the Reds would never have been able to afford the likes of Jose Mourinho, the club's precarious financial state would make it next to impossible to appoint someone like Guus Hiddink, Frank Rijkaard, Roy Hodgson and Martin O'Neill. Compounding the matter is the fact that should either one of these coaches choose to move to Anfield, they face the prospect of trying to restore glory to a club on the verge of losing its stars and with a transfer budget of GBP5 million. In other words, unless things look up on the financial horizon, the odds of any of these gentlemen making the move to Liverpool this summer is as likely as the Reds winning the Champions League next season.

As such, if current conditions continue, only a manager with a deep connection to the club will be willing to take the job. As you might have guessed, the biggest candidate for that job would be "King" Kenny Dalglish. And some fairy tale it would be should Dalglish - the last manager to guide the Reds to a league title - end Liverpool's title drought. But can Dalglish rediscover his winning ways of the 80s considering the fact that he's been absent from the game for almost a decade?

Remember how the Geordies kept fantasizing of the return of Kevin Keegan to Newcastle and when the former Liverpool legend eventually replaced Sam Allardyce at St James Park, it became pretty obvious that his three-year absence from the league before rejoining the Magpies was just too long a hiatus. And if three years could have done that to Keegan, what's to say Dalglish' absence from the game wouldn't turn out the same?

Speaking of Keegan, why hasn't he been considered by the so-called pundits? Keegan has just as much as a bond with club and seeing as to how he's been in the game a little more frequent that Dalglish has over the past 10 years, who's to say Keegan wouldn't be a success at Liverpool? And wouldn't he just "luv it" it if he could snatch title number 19 from right under Sir Alex Ferguson's nose?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mancini's honeymoon over?

Someday soon, someone's going to have to tell those tycoons controlling Man City that they've got an average side. And that someone needs to be Roberto Mancini. Otherwise he might as well give up on his English classes and book a one-way ticket back to Italy in the summer.

In the early stages, it appeared as though Mancini had breathed new life into the Eastlanders whose campaign for a top four position was on course for yet another season of mid-table mediocrity. But just as Sparky found out, the present bunch of players at Man City (who were selected by Welshman) are a mediocre bunch that at best represent an expensive version of Blackburn or Bolton. Sure, there's the occasional upset against one of the big four but that's no reason to think there's anything more to the team. Heck, Fulham have beaten both Man Utd and Liverpool this season and yet they're no closer to moving out of their mid-table comfort zone.

But the most disappointing aspect of Mancini's stint so far is that there doesn't seem to a big change in tactics. There's the occasional rotation policy and Bellamy training ground bust-up (who hasn't had this problem?) but City under Mancini seem to play very much the same way they did under Hughes.

Italian coaches are renown for their tactical prowess and that's been the case at Stamford Bridge this season. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Mancini isn't all that great of a coach in the first place. After all, didn't he win those Serie A titles with Inter when Milan and Juventus were all demoted for match-fixing?

Maybe I'm wrong and this summer, when Mancini's given Sparky's old cheque book he'll make some decent signings that can deliver what his bosses so dearly crave at the moment.